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Research Companies before You accept an Official Interview

by Peter Marx

In order to be best prepared for any interview, it helps to know which companies you want to work for, or at the least, which companies have the potential to hire you. If you know those two things you can begin to prepare yourself for a truly positive interview. But, how do you find out what you want to know about those companies?

The first way to gather information about a company you may want to work for is the obvious visit to their web site. Here you'll find out what the company really does, how big or small they are, their mission statements, strategic statements of their future goals, a feeling for their culture or business style, and almost always these days, a list of current job openings. This knowledge will quickly help you discern whether you are a potential match as an employee. Key items to look for on web sites are names of company officers. If there is no bio on the web site, Google the person's name to find out more about them. If you can identify a player in the company who attended the same university you did, or served in the same branch of military service, you have an immediate connection to establish rapport with that person as you start networking within the company.

What you usually won't find on web sites is a list or directory of the major players in the company, like Board of Directors, Chief level Officers, or specific department heads who are the actual hiring decision makers. You usually have to search elsewhere for this information, but it is well worth knowing who those people are before you communicate with a company. There are plenty of internet services out there, who will broadcast your resume to potentially thousands of actual hiring managers, but you won't know who is getting your resume or whether it's a company you actually want to work for. And they aren't going to be free. You can, however, use some of the major business research directories to learn about companies, their stats etc., and especially their major players.

Dun and Bradstreet Business Directories, Ward's Business Directory, The Handbook of American Business, and the Handbook of Emerging Companies are some of the references you can consult. Unfortunately in this information age, lots of biographical information is only available in subscription based directories. They can be pricey, but your library or local university will usually have them in the reference section.

Good company research will provide you with the big picture of the who, what, where and when of their organization and also help you find the contacts to begin your network there. Once you have narrowed your list of potential employers, call those contacts you've uncovered, introduce yourself with your common background and ask for a brief appointment to discuss what's going on in your industry in your specific geographical location. Remember, this is a research meeting to find out if you want to work for that company, not necessarily an appointment for an interview. That will come later.